Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 12

Reading: Mark 12
A Scandalous Invitation by Richard Foster, from Freedom of Simplicity

When Jesus watched the voluntary offerings made in the temple treasure, he was moved by the sacrificial gift of the poor widow. What was it about her giving that touched him so? Jesus’ comment on that simple act was, “For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living” (Mark 12:44).

Her giving had a certain reckless abandon to it. She evidenced an undivided devotion that fulfilled the command to love God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength. In fact, in Mark’s Gospel this story follows closely on the heels of the two great commandments, as if to be a commentary upon them. A simple act, but one that crystallized the Christian witness. Here was a woman free from idolatry to mammon, devoid of greed and avarice. Here was a person in whom extravagant giving exceeded prudent thrift. Here was a widow, helpless and defenseless, who had learned to trust the Father in heaven for her needs day by day, one who sought first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Dare we follow her lead?

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 11

Reading: Mark 11
“Road Trip to Jerusalem” by Dale Elliott

Have you ever said, “I wish I could be a fly on the wall?” Maybe it is a momentous encounter between special people, but you won’t be there to see it, hear it, or feel it.

A more appealing image: I wish we could have just walked with Jesus.  Walked through the little towns of Galilee, healing the sick, radiating love to disciples and to the “least of these” everywhere.

Or simply join Jesus on the road trip to Jerusalem, climbing uphill to the “most holy place.” (It is only 15 miles from the Dead Sea, dramatically 1,412 feet below sea level. Jerusalem, the high place, is 3,800 feet above sea level. There is no thin O2, but rarefied spiritual air, the place for the once in the lifetime of the universe event.)

With eyes closed, we find our journey actually enters Jerusalem three times just in this chapter.

Why that look on the faces of those readily lending their colt for Jesus to ride into the city? Did they know something? Heard something wonderful about the teacher? Shown something by His Spirit? What is on my face when asked to follow him?

Why a quick look around the city before exiting to Bethany for the night? Do I really look to see what’s before me, and think and pray?

Wow! Jesus can show anger! Profiteers over the faith given by God; there is no tolerance. This is serious. Do I claim God’s approval for choices that really mostly help me and my kind?

And poor fig tree! Just waiting for its productive season. Maybe I have big rationalizations and small faith.

Maybe the road trip wouldn’t be so easy. His look into my eyes, seeing me. Maybe I would need to look deeper inside if He looked at me. Maybe I do. Because He has.

Lent Daily Devotional: Psalm 38

Psalm 38

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me,
and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.

My wounds fester and are loathsome
because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low;
all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain;
there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbors stay far away.
Those who want to kill me set their traps,
those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
all day long they scheme and lie.

 I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,
like the mute, who cannot speak.
I have become like one who does not hear,
whose mouth can offer no reply.
Lord, I wait for you;
you will answer, Lord my God.
For I said, “Do not let them gloat
or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.”

For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.
Many have become my enemies without cause;
those who hate me without reason are numerous.
Those who repay my good with evil lodge accusations against me,
though I seek only to do what is good.
Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 10

Reading: Mark 10
From Lent for Everyone by N.T. Wright

When the young man declares that he’s kept all the commandments since he was little, ‘Jesus looked at him, and loved him’ (verse 21). Jesus gazed at the young man and saw in him a real eagerness, a quick readiness to do whatever it took to be part of God’s new world when it arrived, as arrive it surely would now that Jesus was here. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by such enthusiasm, and Jesus’ heart was anything but stony. But then Jesus dropped the bombshell. One more thing: sell up, give it away, and follow me. ‘Costing not less than everything’ was how T.S. Eliot described the challenge of following Jesus, and that’s what Jesus was asking now. The enthusiasm changed to disappointment like a dark cloud suddenly appearing from nowhere to cover the sun. Off he went.

Stand there with the disciples as they watch, hardly daring to move. What’s he going to say? Shouldn’t he have closed the deal, told the young man to come as he was, and hoped to explain the cost to him more fully as they went on?

ln our mind’s eye we see that gaze swing round the silent, watching group. He’s reading their faces and they his. Then he says something which shocks them as much as his challenge shocked the young man. ‘It’s difficult for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom.’ More amazement. But why? The disciples lived in a world where wealth was seen as an index of God’s blessing. If rich people couldn’t be part of God’s kingdom, then who could?

‘It’s impossible for mortals,’ Jesus said, looking hard at them. Once again we stand silent on the edge of the crowd, open-mouthed, as his level, steady, sad gaze meets theirs. Don’t they get it yet? Haven’t they seen the point? Didn’t they remember the Sermon on the Mount? God’s kingdom doesn’ t work by the ordinary human rules. All things are possible to God, but that’s just as well because what needs to happen isn’t just difficult; it’s impossible. God’s kingdom, and the life of the Age to Come, are all about new creation. You can’t generate them from within the present age.

In the previous scene, we saw Jesus going back behind the Law of Moses to the principles of the original creation. Now we see him going out beyond the Law of Moses (which the young man declares he’s kept all through) to the principles of God’s new creation. God is doing a new thing, and the only way to get there with him is to abandon all pride, all achievement, all status, all possessions. None of them count for a thing.

When God acts he characteristically turns things upside down. The first will be last and the last first.

Daily Lent Devotional: Mark 9

Reading: Mark 9
Thoughts by Dwain Evans

What a remarkable story Mark relates in this text. Paul said to the church at Philippi “though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” And the Jesus that Peter, James and John knew was a man of poverty with no permanent home, who relied on the women who followed him for the food he ate.

This made the miracles he performed even more remarkable. When he calmed the tempest, they said, “Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him.” They were about to catch a glimpse as they climbed this high mountain by themselves. Suddenly, his clothes became “dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.’ And Moses, the great lawgiver and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets appeared, talking with Jesus.

It was a time to keep quiet, but Peter had a proposal. He was interrupted by a cloud and a voice from the cloud, “This is my Son, the Beloved: listen to him.” Moses and Elijah were gone, and they stood there with Jesus alone. Everything was changed. No longer the son of a poor peasant family, but the very Son of God!

And when we read this story, we too are changed!

Lent Daily Devotional: Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer, as paraphrased by Dallas Willard

Dear Father always near us,
may your name be treasured and loved,
may your rule be completed in us-
may your will be done here on earth in
just the way it is done in heaven.
Give us today the things we need today,
and forgive us our sins and impositions on you
as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us.
Please don’t put us through trials,
but deliver us from everything bad.
Because you are the one in charge,
and you have all the power, and the glory too is all yours-forever-
which is just the way we want it.


Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 8

Reading: Mark 8
Prayer of Confession by Blair Gilmer Meeks

Have mercy on us, O God, according to your steadfast love, for we know our sins, and we cannot overlook them.

We have failed to put our complete confidence in you; we rely on prestige and pass success for reputation; we look to the wealth and power of nations for support; we cling to things, and yet knowing you surpasses all else.

Wash us; heal us; teach us to honor you with truth.

Let us know the joy and gladness of your saving grace that we may have life in Jesus Christ our Lord.


Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 7

Reading: Mark 7
“Scraps Under the Table” by Laurie Norris

This story reminds me of a time our two-year old son Liam was under the breakfast table with our dog Perry. Liam was eating a piece of chocolate and dropped it. Perry swooped up Liam’s morsel and Liam immediately bit Perry on the ear. Perry, in pain, whipped her mouth toward Liam’s face but evidently understood that Liam was a baby. She did not bite him but let him know that biting her on the ear was not an acceptable thing to do. She was merely doing what dogs do – eating scraps the children drop.

Upon reading the words Jesus says to the Syro-Phoenician woman, we are shocked at the harsh, derogatory sound of Jesus calling the woman a dog. That doesn’t sound like the loving, compassionate Jesus we know. The word that Jesus uses, though, means “little pet dog”, one who is part of the family. In our household, dogs are so much a part of the family that we have the ashes of one in a box on the mantle. Our current dog gets to lie at our feet on our bed while we watch TV.

The Syro-Phoenician woman is not insulted by Jesus’ words. Jesus’ ministry was first to the Jews. They were his people, his priority. She needs help for her daughter and she knows that Jesus can heal the girl. She cleverly responds, “But don’t the dogs under the table get scraps dropped by the children?” Jesus respects the woman’s faith and heals her daughter. She has persisted in asking for Jesus’ help even after he seemingly refuses her request. This is a great illustration that even when God seems unwilling to aid us, we must continue to seek God’s help.



Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 6

Reading: Mark 6
From Lent for Everyone by N.T. Wright

Jesus told us to leave at once. The last thing we saw was him heading up into the hills. Probably off to pray again, he’s always doing that, wish I knew what he said. Then we realized: night was on the way. And there we were, between the black sky and the black waters, everybody tired, almost forgetting the ridiculous things we’d just seen, everybody longing for sleep, and ­­– what was that? Did you see something? It’s – no, it can’t be! It must be a ghost!

And then the voice. So calm, so natural. Almost as though he was teasing us. Here are we, dropping the oars in fright, and there was he, as though he was out for an afternoon stroll, going to walk right by us. I’ve lived by this lake all my life and this is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone walking on it. What’s going on?

But now he’s speaking again, and this time I sense that he’s looking straight at me. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Well, why not, I thought…and then it happened. Like it sometimes does when he speaks to you. Like a cold drink on a hot day. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ He says that quite a lot, and it rings bells with things I’ve heard in synagogue. In the scriptures. Angels say it to people. God says it sometimes, too. Now he’s saying it.

It was all a bit too much. I simply couldn’t put it all together. The healings, the parties, those lawyers getting stroppy with him, then his cousin being killed, then that business with the loaves, and now this. Maybe we are all crazy. Maybe we’re all going to die if we follow him. But I’ve never known anybody like him and nor has anybody I know. And when we all went off to his cousin, down by the Jordan, John seemed pretty clear that Jesus was the one.

I always had a picture in my mind of what the ideal king would look like, and though Jesus isn’t at all like that, Herod certainly isn’t and could never be. And in fact I have a sense that Jesus is trying to be a different sort of king … and it’s very appealing, his sort of kingdom, even though I still don’t see how it all works out. Perhaps this is how it’s always going to be, for anyone who wants to follow Jesus, now or at any time. Perhaps what he wants from us is not that we should be able to explain it all but that we should just be clear we’re going to go on following him. I may not always understand it first time off, but I’ll still show up. Or my name’s not Thomas Didymus.

Lent Daily Devotional: Psalm 32

Psalm 32

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!